ABC Snorkel Charters ~ Frequently Asked Questions

ABC Snorkel Charters Port Douglas is a micro family company. We specialise in the smallest groups of any daily reef boat from Port Douglas or Cairns. To assist during your research and planning, we have prepared the below list of Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers), which you may find useful. If you have any queries not covered in the below, contact us on phone (07) 4099 6243 or email


When is the best time of year to visit The Great Barrier Reef and when is the best visibility?

The Great Barrier Reef is beautiful any time of year. However, the weather is very hard to predict, as it can be unseasonable at any time of year. Port Douglas is in the tropical part of Australia and has two main seasons: the ‘Wet Season’ November to April (water temperatures 28-32 degrees Celsius) and the ‘Dry Season’ May to October (water temperatures 22-25 degrees Celsius).

Visibility varies between 15 and 30m+ throughout the year. June, July and August is our whale season, which often adds the extra excitement of seeing whales on the way to the reef, or maybe even at our reef locations! October and November often provide us with the calmest seas. Many people look for sun when planning a reef trip, however, fish are not scared of clouds, or rain, but visibility is reduced with rough seas. We have access to a four-day weather forecast and will not run if we believe conditions to be too rough.

What is the difference between Low Islands & Outer Reef


The Island day tends to be more protected in most weather conditions and therefore very suited to private charter groups and family days with young children.

The Low Islands are also much closer to Port Douglas approx. travel time 30mins.

There can be other tour operators on the Islands at the same time.


More remote locations and definitely away from the crowds in fact from any other boats or tourism operators.

Travel time to the Outer Reef  is 70-90 minutes in each direction depending on the locations that are decided on the day. We will keep you entertained during the trip and this is always a good chance to ask questions and learn about The Great Barrier Reef.



What is the current state of the reefs you visit? / Is the Great Barrier Reef Alive?

The media has created a lot of confusion over the last few years. The most contentious subject would be Coral Bleaching for further information on this please click here. The Great Barrier Reef is alive and looking beautiful – which can been seen in the recent photos taken on our Facebook or and our Instagram. Whilst there are currently many threats to The Great Barrier Reef, which will be discussed in our on board marine talk, we have a roaming permit. This allows us the flexibility to choose from a large number of locations on The Great Barrier Reef. Although some sites may have suffered in the last few years, many others are as pristine as they ever were. With our permit and small vessel, we can access some of the remote reefs, away from the crowds and the big operators to show you everything as you had imagined it! We have beautiful Corals, Nudibranchs, Clownfish, Turtles, Maori Wrasse, Sharks and all the marine life in between!

Do we need to worry about the jelly fish?

This really is more of an issue for beach dwellers than offshore reef visitors. However, in the summer months, we do provide lycra suits for protection. We have prepared a simple fact sheet on Marine Stingers.


Is ABC able to collect me from my hotel/accommodation?

Yes we do local Port Douglas pick ups without any charge.

These are at 07.45 – 07.50.

Bare in mind Port Douglas is a small place and most hotels are within walking distance of our shop where we meet at 08.00.

There is plenty of free parking close to our shop.

What are the OUTER REEF daily operating hours?

We have holiday and family friendly daily timings. We ask you to meet at our shop at 08.00.

We can get the paperwork done and our boat returns around 15.00. Getting you back to your accommodation 15.15

Giving you enough time for a holiday breakfast and back for an afternoon siesta!

What are the LOW ISLANDS private charter operating hours?

We ask you to be at our boat at 8.30am and we return around 2.00pm.

Is Snorkelling equipment included in the price?

Yes. We have top quality snorkel equipment. Our lightweight fins are made from modern monoprene material which are much kinder to your feet and much nicer than the usual rubber hire fins. We have different sized masks & snorkels and also children’s sizes. We also have prescription masks available without charge (better to advise us in advance) if these are required.

How far ahead should I book my tour with ABC?

Being a micro tour operator running with such low numbers, we often book out well ahead. During the school and Christmas holidays periods, we can be fully booked for many days in a row. As such, we suggest you please book early to reserve your ABC experience.

Can I come along, even if I don’t want to get in the water?

Yes. If you want to come along to join a partner/family and still learn some amazing things about the Great Barrier Reef or just to see the whales frolic. Maybe you are simply not up to snorkelling or don’t want to get wet. Then we will only charge you the child rate.

Does ABC serve any food during the day?

No. Before COVID-19 we used to have a buffet lunch. Now the rules have changed. Rather than give you a lunch box, we feel it safer and more satisfactory to leave the food to each guests’ own responsibility. So, please bring your own lunch/snacks.

Does ABC serve any snacks, soft drinks or alcohol?

Yes, we have a limited supply of pre-packaged snacks, canned soft drinks, beers and wine on board for purchase. Please note, alcohol can only be served after you’ve completed your in-water activities for the day and on the trip home! Please bring a credit card. No cash is accepted on board.

How many locations do we go to in a day?

On average 2 or 3. But some days we may do 5 or 6. There are so many variables. Safety is always paramount, so the biggest thing that dictates how many and where we go is the weather conditions. Tides also play a huge part.

Do you visit the same Reef locations every day?

No, because we limit our passenger numbers to a maximum of 12 guests, we are ‘allowed’ to visit the many Low Use Reefs. This is a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority term and what it means is, Low Use Reefs have a maximum 15-person limit. This instantly rules out all the larger operators getting to the best spots. ABC has a whole different philosophy than the mainstream reef operators. ABC days are about adventure and excitement; no two days are ever the same. In reality, we could go to a different location every single day of the year! Many customers come out with us 2 or 3 times in the same week.

What can I purchase on the boat?

Reef safe sun cream, Micro SD memory cards, soft drinks, some pre-packaged snacks and alcoholic beverages. Please bring a credit card as no cash is accepted on board.

Can I hire an underwater camera? Will I be in any of the photos?

Yes and yes! We hire the amazing Go Pro cameras in underwater housings with handles for $55. There is an 16GB memory included in this price for you to take away you HD video & photos with you. Please ask one of our crew members to take your photo while they are swimming with you.

Can I bring my own camera?

Yes. Absolutely and highly recommended it. The Great Barrier Reef is a photographers’ paradise.

Will I be able to get any professional reef photos?

Yes. The owner of ABC is an underwater photographer and has compiled a very special collection. We email you a dropbox link after the trip.

Is ABC the right Great Barrier Reef Tour if I am not the best swimmer?

Yes. You don’t have to be a champion swimmer, but you should be comfortable in open water. We are perfect for singles, couples and are very family friendly. We even have full 5mm wetsuits for our 7+ year old children. (great when the kids are warm)

How long does it take to get out to the outer reef?

We need to travel 70-90 minutes in each direction depending on the locations that are decided on the day. We will keep you entertained during the trip and this is always a good chance to ask questions and learn about The Great Barrier Reef. We also provide snorkel briefings on the way, so you can enter the water and make the most of your day as soon as the engines are turned off!

What do I have to bring on the day?

A sense of adventure, food/snacks, water bottle, towel, sun cream/block, sea sickness medication (it’s preventative, better to take some ‘just in case’), something dry to wear for the return journey, camera.

Where do i see prices?

Just press the BOOK NOW button on most pages on our website.

Can i check ABC availability on line?

Yes you can. Most of the time our on line platform is completely up to date.

NOTE some dates say CALL TO BOOK please call us.

However, things do change at last minute especially given our current climate.

Always worth calling us to double check any last minute availability.

Can I book and pay online?

Yes please press the BOOK NOW button on most pages of our website.

From there you can check dates, availability and book on line with just a few clicks.



If I am a weak or non-swimmer is this tour ok for me?

No. This is not the ideal tour for you if you can’t swim or are not confident in open water. If this is the case, we would suggest maybe one of the larger vessels that visits an Island or a Pontoon might be better. This is just for your peace of mind, comfort on the day and safety. Please note age and fitness levels are critical. Older age, and some medical conditions, especially heart disease, increase the risks of snorkelling.


Why are we the only company to take just 12 guests?

Simple, we want you to have the best Great Barrier Reef experience! We have always run with very low numbers. This is particularly ‘helpful’ to operations, during the current COVID-19 situation we all find ourselves in.

Much more sensible to be away from the crowds. Also, being on a tiny tour, people get so much more from their experience.

Please note that due to the current COVID-19 situation, and the associated social distancing rules, the magic number of 12 could change slightly. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible right now, for automated booking systems to pick up on who actually lives in the same household. Therefore how the 4sq metre rule applies to groups.

What if it’s rainy?

Fish are not scared of rain and this really does not impact our day. Another thing to note is that just because it is raining in Port Douglas, it does not mean that it is raining out at the reef. We see typical convection rainfall in Port Douglas, where the water is evaporating over the ocean. It then hits the mountains in Port Douglas and rains. Therefore, we often have clear skies at the reef, even though it is looking grim in Port Douglas.

Why did ABC stop taking scuba divers?

The fact is, it was becoming more and more difficult to be everything to everybody, even before COVID-19. The amount of logistics involved to arrange all this in a small package was proving unsustainable economically. COVID-19 really just highlighted this to us.

Lots of people point out that you can see 90% of the Great Barrier Reef in the first 4 metres, making snorkelling an ideal way to see the Reef.

© ABC Snorkel Charters 2022

Website created by RJ New Designs